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Chartres, Le Mans, and the Louvre, 2012 (3)

In mid-April 2012, the snow's disappearing in the Jura.

Too much work anyway. Down tools. We're going to Chartres.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Chartres walkabout

21 April 2012, and we're off at a dignified hour to follow the city's planned walking tour of the best bits.

The vegetable market in the Place Billard, near the cathedral.

Kristin loves nothing so much as bins full of garlic. Except seals, and kitties. And marmots.

A Swarm of Locavores. The money-changers used to be all round here in medieval times.

It's like coming home. The street of the Old Rapporteurs.

The church of Saint-Aignan (named after a 4th century Bishop of Chartres). The church dates from the early 16th century, but it was built on the site of a chapel that served the nearby castle of the Counts of Chartres, now gone, in the present vegetable market.

Great late Gothic interiors in St-Aignan's

St Aignan views

It's a miracle. A pleasant albeit bearded face (left), but when you move an inch to the left, or to the right -- it's the Turin Shroud. Or some similar holy shroud. (I used to have baseball cards that could do this trick.)

Old Testament Bible stories -- we always look for the funniest tales. The stained glass here is nicely done, but this is the work of the Maison Lorins in the 1880s.

The original mostly 13th century stained glass windows in the Chartres cathedral, on the other hand, are considered amongst the world's finest, thanks to the labors of the good people who protected them when the town fell to the English in 1417, during the sieges by the French Protestants in 1568 and 1591, and under the German occupation of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and stored them all away in hiding during the First World War and again during the Second World War, when the Germans roamed through the streets and American bombers roamed overhead.

Mom and the kids and voluminous bedding.

-- It's another miracle. Don't turn round, you'll spoil it.

Medieval couscous

Chartres nightlife in the cold light of morning

Another one! This is the formerly Benedictine abbey church of St-Pierre, first donated in the 7th century by St Bathilde, the wife of the Merovingian king Clovis II, then absorbed by the Benedictines in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Many of the stained glass windows in this place are also late 13th century, but some of them are said to be from the 16th century and salvaged from a nearby church of St-Hilaires when the Freedom Fighters of the French Revolution knocked that one down.

The chairs are recent.

The Gothic nave of St Peter's in the Valley

A small show for a select audience (not shown)

St Peter's from below.

Ditto. The present belltower (on the far end) dates from about A.D. 1000 and was fortified as a defensible hideout for the monks when trouble came along, which was not infrequently, since the abbey was outside the then city walls at the top of the street closer to the cathedral.

The river Eure. The water mill on the right has a mechanism from the 11th century that belonged to the Abbaye Saint-Pere.

The river Eure. The technological platforms set out in the river are part of an ambitious light-show scheme to present the old city and churches to best advantage.

St Pierre through the trees (St Aignan up the hill)

Dinner menus are where you find them.

If there is anywhere that Indians and Pakistanis can get together on something, it's at the Nirvana restaurant in Chartres.

You're telling me!

They're just setting up. It will be a pity to miss this.

The cathedral from the bridge at Place Morard

The cathedral from the river Eure. The North Tower is slightly higher than the South Tower. That would be the better one to look out over the city from.

The river Eure is split into sections at this point, and we're on an island. I don't know whether that's natural or part of old defensive ditchworks.

The bridge of the Pot Vert

The river Eure, walking northwards through the old town

The bridge of the Porte Guillaume, Kristin watching the ducks

Kristin loves nothing so much as a duck. Except kitties, and marmots. And swans!

The North Tower in its glory, upstaged by the South Tower

Street scene at the Porte Guillaume bridge

The medieval French decorated their houses with religious statues the way my Appalachian neighbors decorated theirs with old cars on the lawn.

Most of the city's 12th-century ramparts and fortified gates were demolished in the early 19th century, for Progress, except for the Porte Guillaume, or William Gate. That's what's left of it propped up on the left, after the Germans, evacuating before Patton in August 1944, blew it up for no particular reason. Restoration works are presently underway.

Chartres street scene

The Hostellerie Saint-Yves (our lodgings) from the river

Kristin at the sluice gates

The restaurant in the old Moulin de Ponceau

The Moulin de Ponceau and its restaurant from the Pont des Minimes, named for the convent that once straddled the river on both sides of the bridge

Kristin loves nothing so much as a swan! Except kitties, and a marmot. And squirrels.

The cathedral from the Pont des Minimes

The Cathedral of Chartres, end-on. We can thank Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith, Jr., for that.

St Andrew's church from the 12th century -- the outside is okay, but you can't go in. The Germans, leaving town in a hurry in 1944, tried to burn it down, and it's not safe.


St Andrew's church again. There's a Roman amphitheatre just next door, but we walked right past it without noticing it. That's life.

We're walking up the Bishops' back path to the top of the hill -- the oldest part of town was under the Bishops' jurisdiction, the rest of the medieval old town was the property of the Counts.

This 12th century edifice is not the first Cathedral of Chartres, by any means: the first cathedral was wrecked by Hunald, Duke of Aquitaine, in 743. The next one was destroyed by Hastings the Viking in 858. The next one was Good To Go in 876 when Charles the Bald consecrated it and donated the Virgin Mary's undershorts worn at the time of Jesus' birth -- thereby ensuring Chartres' prosperity as a pilgrimage attraction for the next few centuries.

Notwithstanding all that, the town and cathedral were destroyed again in 962, in the time of the Count of Chartres Thibault the Cheat, by another Viking terrorist, Richard the Duke of Normandy. The cathedral burnt down again in 1020, got rebuilt instantly, but burnt again in 1030, but was ready to go again by 1037. Whew. Until the fire of 1194 (when Mary's undershorts were miraculously saved).

The former Bishops' Palace, now the city's art museum. It's not bad, and inexpensive, though the building's interiors are more interesting than its exhibits. There's some fun stuff, but staff are serious about no no-flash photographs, as they've got a full range of postcards for sale in the lobby.

Like this one. The February 2012 issue of History Today has an article by Richard Almond about the several different ways that ladies rode horses in the medieval and Renaissance periods, not very well illustrated, but this postcard by Claude Deruet ("The Duchesse of Lorraine at the hunt") from the mid-17th century has got them all.

Including the poor lady on the right whose side-saddle broke.

Our hotel

The St Piat Chapel from the early 14th century. Kristin has always liked this as the best part of the whole show, but the cathedral choir, apse, and the chapel out the end of it are presently being restored -- sand-blasted, apparently -- so I may never get in to see it.

Our hotel, the Hostellerie St-Yves

The (burnt-out) St Andrew's church from our hotel window

The Hostellerie St-Yves (left) and the diocesan digs

The cathedral from the Bishops' Palace

The North Tower. It's beckoning to us more and more insistently.

An interesting free evening concert in the Hostellerie of several performers with a CD for sale.

Tomorrow: a side trip to Le Mans

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 5 May 2012.

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